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The Ever Changing Community and Why We Care

Discussion in 'Gaming Arena' started by Yakzan, Mar 6, 2013.

  1. Yakzan

    Yakzan "That" Cupcake

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    Hail. Welcome to the next installment of my series of threads on aspects of MMO design. I guess I should note that despite me now being part of the WSC team, these threads are of my own devices and not related to the WSC staff. Just wanted to make sure there wouldn‘t be any confusion, especially for newcomers.

    TL;DR: Communities in MMOs. Smaller server communities and larger macro-communities. How important are each to you? How much do they come into play with how your playstyle? Could you do without one or the other? Give your thoughts.

    Topic: This week I wanted to talk about the rather broad but vastly important topic of an MMO‘s community. The community is one of the most important and defining part of an MMO. Without the community, the MMO dies as the MMO is designed around its community in whatever form that community may be. These communities come in many forms and only a few of them are easily definable. The two different types that I wish to emphasize on are on one hand the smaller and simpler “server communities” and the larger, more complex overarching community that follows and plays the MMO, which I shall call the “macro-community.” How you precisely define these two can be rather difficult. How they interact with each other and their importance to each player is important as well. I’d like to start the conversation about how I define and view these different types of communities. I would love to see your thoughts and feedback on this subject.

    My thoughts: I define a server community as a community of players as restricted by their choice of server. With this I include any external sites, forums and guild where the people from this server interact with each other (See: Everquest, WoW, etc.) Then there is the macro-community which I see as the following of the game as a whole. This especially applies to a game that uses the single “megaserver” technology so the entire community of the game is on the same server (See: EVE, in the future TESO.) However, the lines between these two types are starting to blur in some games where there is server segregation but the interactivity between the servers are tending towards a “megaserver” structure (See: Current WoW, TSW, GW2.)

    This is a very interesting thing to think about because there are people who preferred what could now be called ‘old-school’ server communities. Then there are people who don’t mind this mixing of communities or even bothered with the server community and just wished to interact with the macro-community as a whole. As these lines are blurring the communities are changing. I’m not using the term “evolution” because that implies progress forward and that there is a “devolution” counter to this because how positive these changes are subjective. What do you think about the changes going on? Is the current trend the right way to go? Should we go back to how it was before? Is there a different direction to take? Can both types peacefully co-exist within the same game?
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  2. moneda

    moneda Cupcake-About-Town

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    Here's a reminder about how I feel about server communities~
    TL;DR: I love 'em, and anticipate cultivating new friendships and rivalries on whichever Wildstar server I end up on.

    Also, a related quote from Dan Dunham, technical director at ZeniMax Online Studios:
    You can probably guess as to how I feel about that opinion. :cautious: This is currently number one on my list of things that are killing my anticipation of TESO. This sounds like a developer who has no idea what I'd enjoy in my MMORPG. :(
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  3. Fate Flyer

    Fate Flyer "That" Cupcake

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    Interesting topic! To be honest, I hadn't really thought about how the servers blurring the lines between each other are affecting the community.

    I do like the (hopefully) friendly competition the segregation of servers creates along with the bonding it forms. For example, I remember when I played Lord of the Rings Online, and I was on one of the big roleplaying servers. Jumping on the official message board and into my server's forum, it was like coming home. Everyone was friendly and welcoming and chatted together like one big family. There even was a morning coffee thread each day for people to say good morning to one another and talk about what they're doing that day. I loved that close-knit feel of the server and how everyone seemed to support one another.

    On the other hand though, the ability to play and communicate with people across servers is also attractive to me but for different reasons, as it allows you to play with friends who may not be on your server, and it shortens your queue for dungeons.

    Both have their ups and downs. Which is more important to me? I really am not all that sure at the moment. I think there's some sort of happy medium to be found though without restricting yourself to one extreme or the other.
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  4. WickedMir

    WickedMir Cupcake

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    The only 'issue' I ever had with seperate severs is the dividing of US and EU areas. Due to other games and overall increased activities on the internet I have friends all over the globe, notably US, Canada and some even in Australia. Playing with people all over the world has become quite the hassle for me, resulting in making alts I didn't really care for, transfers and so on.

    So I would welcome a mega-server completely, however , like Fate Flyer said I do hope for a decent middle ground of sorts. Have a mega-server with sections (pvp, rp, pve), with their own names maybe? This would still encourage section/sector 'firsts' and healthy rivalry but hold the game community closer. Just my 2 cents.
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  5. Yakzan

    Yakzan "That" Cupcake

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    This is one of the reasons why I like server communities. It gives a sense of 'home' within the game itself. Could developers perhaps give more first-party tools to help create this? Server forums are one thing, but what about allowing the community to have more control over the server? There could be systems to allow communities to setup events with the cooperation of GMs. Perhaps more out-of-game systems for the server communities such as websites or mobile apps or what have you that allow you to communicate with the game? We've seen the mobile armories, guild chats and remote AH, but could we then move it into a more integrated server chat program using your character as a proxy akin to the mobile guild chats? What about a new feed for the server itself and "Message of the Day" or even introduction page on how the community is on that server, all run by the community in cooperation with GMs assigned to the server? All of this can have its issues as well, but just a few ideas to through out there.

    On the same note, one of the strengths about server communities is that with how tight-knit they can be, community enforcement and policing is a possibility. This can, of course, go both ways. Should developers give more tools to the community to allow for this? This can allow the community to further discourage behavior that the community on that server considers toxic and encourage further cooperation and 'community feeling' within the server. However, the possibility of corruption and abuse with such tools is a definite issue worth considering as well. The people with access to these tools could use it for their own selfish means and end up just tearing the community apart while they flee for other servers or games. Would GM supervision be enough or would further restrictions be necessary? Or am I just right off the mark and this would never work?

    It's a pretty good point, and like you said, "How do we go about this without just making a mess of things?" How do we maintain the 'walls' of a server community but overcome this obstacle of playing with people you've met outside the server community? I think something like GW2's Guesting system or how WoW now allows easy grouping with people that you have on your RealID list. I haven't tried GW2's system since it finally got implemented but WoW's approach is one of the few things I liked about their latest expansion. I had friends on another server, they simply invited me and I got 'phased' into their server. Perhaps something like this should be used more so you can play with these out-of-server friends without tearing down the 'walls' of the server? Could we go too far where it ends up just becoming a megaserver by tearing down these 'walls'?
  6. Witless

    Witless "That" Cupcake

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    I can live with one of two styles. Typical segregated servers or one mega server with no separate sections. Since EVE is the only current game doing that mega server I'll skip it.

    I've always liked the separate server mentality from EQ. The servers and server forums (arguably every bit as important) helped to develop the personality. That was a direct result of the people on your server and how the game was designed to be played. EQ was a game that you had to interact with others, you could try and go it alone but that was extremely difficult. In EQ your reputation mattered. Most server forums had threads on "black listed" players. You had to have character and integrity. If you didn't you couldn't hide it for long. In to days games it's a bit easier. You can play these games with out ever interacting with your server community, even when you group.

    Community is important to me. For lack of a better word I wish game play "forced" you to interact and that your reputation still mattered.
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  7. Yakzan

    Yakzan "That" Cupcake

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    Mudfin also brings up something I'd like to mention, and that is your community reputation, or in other words, your reputation and integrity within the community. In server communities this is far more prominent inside and outside of the game and gives you incentive to play to a certain role. If you want to be known as the nice guy who gives beginners advice and gear, you could make a name for yourself doing that. If you want to be that dick who corpse camps low level players exploring the world (See: Angwe) you could do that. People will know who they want to play with and who to avoid. It's a system that is much harder to create, especially spontaneously, in the macro-community system.

    That said, could developers facilitate this sort of system better? Should there be a 'karma' system where other people rate you or even leave notes? Perhaps a system where people could rate you on certain aspects such as socializing, world PvP, helping others, or being a dick, and titles could be awarded as thus? Like someone who helps others could get the title of "Selfless" and on the flipside the ganker could get the title "Cold-hearted" or something of the like. The dangerous part about this is the abuse possible. Entire guilds could rate a person to gain this 'systematic reputation' creating an artificial reputation that doesn't belong. Reporting such activity having a GM look into it is one way to prevent this but that also puts a more strain on GM resources which is something to consider as well. Perhaps other restrictions could be put into place as well. Again, this is just an idea based on this community reputation mechanic.

    EDIT: Durus posted to me on IRC an interesting article that I think applies heavily to MMOs. You can find the article here: [article] It talks about a study where experts have found that about 150 is the average number of meaningful connections or relationship someone can have in a community. I feel this is why there are people who prefer the smaller server communities because it more easily allows for such a structure to emerge while with macro-communities the pool is so high that finding and maintaining that structure becomes much more difficult. Like I've mentioned in other posts, it's pretty much a small town vs big city mentality. However, in big cities sub-communities exist that can work as small town communities within the big city community. It's a good question, though, whether you'd consider it a "server community" or simply a "guild." I wonder if there are any thorough studies on MMO communities done by experts in the field.
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  8. WickedMir

    WickedMir Cupcake

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    Surely they could come up with 'stats' for that outside of the report system?

    If you attack (outside of a battleground ) a toon that is say 10 levels or more lower then yourself, and that happens X amounts of time that would 'earn' you a nice 'SOB' title. Whoever holds this title is banned from entering low level areas for Y amount of hours?
  9. Yakzan

    Yakzan "That" Cupcake

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    That is certainly an idea. I've seen such systems in place such as the now abandoned "Murder" system in AoC. That also had its slew of problems because it gave players the option to kill people then punished them heavily for it. It certainly discouraged such activity but it begged the question why it was even possible to kill lower level players in the first place then. Perhaps such a feature could be something that varies between server and the community of that server decides whether to have such a thing or not? I could imagine there are people who enjoy the risk of getting killed by higher level players, though definitely a niche sort of player. It's something that I actually see people now talking about "the good old times" of WoW where they look back fondly on the dangerous world of Stranglethorn Vale.
  10. moneda

    moneda Cupcake-About-Town

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    I'd never want something like this in place on a PvP server I'm on. I think game mechanics should be the solution to nearly every "problem" one can encounter. If some facet of PvP becomes a "problem" then another facet of PvP should be the solution. If some facet of the chat system (profanity, trolling, etc.) becomes a problem then the chat system should inherently have a functional solution (profanity filter, account-wide block, etc.).
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  11. InnocentCivilian

    InnocentCivilian "That" Cupcake

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    Despite having a fascination with MMOs, I actually haven't played that many. Just Vanilla WoW (my 'sense of wonder' phase since it was my first MMO), some Champions Online (which singlehandedly taught me how easily levelling content can be boring), and Guild Wars 2 (which I'm actually quite fond of, despite the fact that I'm not playing at the moment).

    As a result, I don't have that much experience with server community. In WoW, for a time, various people knew me as 'that chatty Priest'; but that was about it :p. In Guild Wars 2, the closest I had to a community was one guy who guested from another server just to complain about how dungeon groups take forever to find on the server I was on. :p

    Since it seems like I'll be part of this thing in Wildstar (the devs seem to want to foster this kind of server ecosystems), I'm curious to see how it'll pan out. @_@ It kinda sucks that the WSC community is going to be all split; not only because some of us will be in different factions, but some of us will want to PvP, others want to PvE, and still others may be on RP-specific servers. :p
  12. WickedMir

    WickedMir Cupcake

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    Obviously this would only work in PVE section or server. I will never understand people complaining about ganking or other things while deliberately playing on a PVP server.
  13. Elthic

    Elthic Cupcake-About-Town

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    For a mmo to really hook someone that person has to be able to build relationships within the game. How many times do you read on forums that the only reason that person plays the game anymore is for their friends/guildies?

    That being said a game that involves a good amount social interaction between players is always a good thing. Being able to play with the same players a good amount of the time is also a good thing, as it builds up relationships between those players. Playing with anonymous players that you will never see again does not build up any relationship.

    That being said every interaction with others does not need to be a long lasting one. The game just needs to provide some different paths that allow long lasting relationships between players. So I think its up to developers to find a good mix between the two.
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  14. InnocentCivilian

    InnocentCivilian "That" Cupcake

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    I don't really have any suggestions on how to foster this kind of server-renown, but I do have an amusing story to tell!

    In GW2 on my server, there was this one player who just PICKED a zone to make his home. It wasn't even an endgame zone, somewhere in the mid range, I think. He was like, always there. Helping people out with events they struggled with, creating entertaining chat, and being an all-around nice guy. People would say stuff like 'goodnight' and 'good morning' to him. :laugh: I've always imagined myself doing something like that ( and it's so cool that MMOs make that possible), but I personally don't have the patience to do that; I like revisiting areas I like, but not to THAT extent. :p
  15. pseudo

    pseudo Podcaster

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    I'm not quite sure about this question. You ask if both the intra and inter-server communities can exist together well... Of course they can! They always have. :)

    In terms of "micro communities" being better for recognition, I would imagine there is more of an ability to make a name for yourself. The TESO community strikes me as a huge echo-chamber. Not sure how/if that will work but I like that Wildstar will have servers and persistent worlds.
  16. Hommedaction

    Hommedaction Cupcake

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    "Cold-hearted" sounds cooler than "Selfless" though. If you want to give people a title for killing lowbies, maybe something like "Coward" would be a better choice.

    This Angwe guy, I like him.

    On topic, I tend to like smaller server communities better.
    Having played on 3 WoW private servers, I grew to be fond of very little communities.
    On a 5k player server, except becoming famous through special deeds (like a video, being the master of camping or whatever) you can be at best acknowledged as a member of the "X" top-tier guild.
    On one of the private server I played on wich had at best 500 players, you ended knowing nearly everyone of your faction and even a good part of the other. It really felt like a small town and when you crossed someone on the field you started socializing with him.
    You couldn't like everyone, but at least they were people, not just the role they played in group the LFG tool made.
    It disturbed me a lot when I made a quick 2 month reappearance on Cataclysm.
  17. InnocentCivilian

    InnocentCivilian "That" Cupcake

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    Sounds like fun!

    In my time with GW2 though, I made it a point to go on the largest servers. Even on allegedly a full server with a population skewed to doing dungeons, I still had a hard time finding groups for a specific dungeon I wanted to do. Part of that could just be GW2's horrible dungeon-finding system (it's almost non-existent), but I do think I may try for larger servers in Wildstar as well, just to make it easier to find groups. ^_^
  18. Kirathis

    Kirathis Cupcake-About-Town

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    As a veteran MMO gamer, I tend to favor the smaller communities. Of course, that is what I started with and cut my teeth on if you will. I would say a lot of preference will come down to how much you enjoy the social aspect of the game. Players seem to be more contained to a specific social group of friends or a guild rather than the overarching server social group. Add to this the fact that the social side of MMOs seems to have dwindled over the years and I would guess the vast majority of modern players really could not care less.

    The problem with the idea of the rating sort of system Yakzan proposed is implementing a system so that it cannot be abused. I would hate to see what a rating and comments system becomes in a community like WoW has today. The amount of hatred on it would be disturbing.
  19. Yakzan

    Yakzan "That" Cupcake

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    Yes, I agree. That is one of the fatal flaws of it and something you'd have to go through a lot of hoops to prevent from occurring. I wish I could think of a simple solution or restriction to make it work to its full intentions but it's just too ripe for abuse without heavy moderation.

    This is something that was brought up with the Cross-Realms thread that I made last week. The whole cross-realm matchmaking thing is a tricky thing because it did solve what InnocentCivilian mentioned, that finding a group in order to do a dungeon could be difficult and with no tools at all and mismatched server populations, even more difficult to find a group. Cross-realm matchmaking does help alleviate this but like Hommedaction mentions, it killed a lot of the socialization that tended to happen within these runs and like he mentions that when there is that level of connection the other members are "people, not just the role they signed up to." It's hard to talk about this specifically because the discussion of cross-realm matchmaking and server communities are deeply intertwined. Some people are not bothered by it as they don't really care for the whole server community aspect and are just there for their own reasons, while others don't like how distant it makes people and how this aspect of the world is so much more disconnected than before. It is very hard to find a compromise between convenience and social interaction in this regard, at least from a designer standpoint.

    This pretty much brings up the point of how important convenience is to the player. Many systems of convenience tend to run counter to social interactions and developing a healthy server community. Cross-realm matchmaking can be one, flying mounts is another one (You can find my post about it here: [post]), and you can even argue the Auction House is another, and with that final example comes the question: How much are you willing to balance systems between convenience and social interaction? F.e. I'm not much for flying mounts because it's harder to meet people on the road if people aren't on the road, while I'm fine with AHs because what if I need that one item I don't want to have to be spamming a chat channel or messing with clumsy retainer systems. (On that note, look to the comments section in this article on handling economics in an MMO: [article]) So, what is acceptable to you?
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  20. moneda

    moneda Cupcake-About-Town

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    Contrary to my earlier post I'd say almost anything is acceptable... or at least attemptable. By which I mean, despite how I initially feel about a system [like a megaserver :(] I would be willing to try it out to see if something I deem problematic can be implemented in a way that I can enjoy... or at least tolerate. It's unfortunate that such attempts will usually cost me money but such is the way of business. Of course if the implementation of something problematic doesn't alleviate my inconvenience then it's time for me to move on.

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